'There was a foreign family having apicnic on the beach, quite near to where she landed. They already looked fairly amazed when this dot in the distance turned out to be a woman in a kayak who landed just feet away from them. I said she should have capped it by going upto them and asking in broken English "vot country pliz iz this?" '
There have been many books on the Isle of Arran but (quite possibly) never one like this. Arran,that tiny green jewel set in the turquoise waters of the Firth of Clyde, has a permanent population of just 5000 or so. Every summer this swells to 20,000 as hordes of tourists from all over the globe beat a path to Brodick Pier and the Calmac ferry terminal.
Steve Rudd first came to Arran in 2002, which makes him, even in the ranks of the tourists, an upstart over-comer, not to mention a counter-jumper to boot. What does he know about Arran? There are some tourist families, for instance, who have been going there for generations, sometimes even to the same guest house every year. The only difference is that Steve Rudd has a few years to go until he catches them up, but this hasn't stopped him writing about it. This book isn't solely about the tourists, though. It's not even really about Arran, in some senses. It's the diaries kept by the author through three different visits there, in July 2005, 2006 and 2007, interspersed with observations on the outside world, insofar as it managed to impinge on the everyday life of Steve and his wife in their aged VW transporter camper van, dubbed "The Arran Silkie".
The 2005 trip started out as a kayaking expedition to the Trossachs, until Arran exerted its magnetic pull, but ended in sadness with the news that their favourite pet cat, Russell, had died while they were away. 2006 was "the swelterer", when the temperature hit 30 degrees on the Wineport Jetty. 2007 was set against the background of the online struggle to save the life of Shambo, the sacred bullock.
In between times, though, there was plenty of holiday. Kayaks were paddled, seals were watched and photographed, and the skeins of everyday stress were unwound mainly to the soothing rhythm of waves lapping the shores of Kilbrannan Sound.
The book also examines, in passing, the curiously schizophrenic love-hate relationship between Scotland and England which, like so much else about Scotland,is perfectly miniaturized on Arran. Arran needs the tourists, but the wrong kind of tourism, the kind that results in 40% of the housing stock on the island being holiday homes costing in excess of £200,000 and completely out of the range of the locals, could end up strangling the very community that drew the tourists there in the first place. Travel writing is always subjective. One man's fish is another man's poisson. As Paul Theroux once memorably wrote, "A travel book is a strange thing: there are few good excuses for writing one, all of them personal, and these days there are as many different travel books as there are travellers." This is an attempt at a different travel book, which has been described as "like a minor key Bill Bryson, but with more midgies".
"Often amusing, they can also touch moments of lyrical appreciation -”
- Alison Prince of the Arran Voice"
A laidback style and a wickedly dry sense of humour that makes Arran Diaries a pleasure to read" -Sarah Wakely, Practical Motorhome